Blue Monday?  I have a blue kitchen..

There’s been lots of talk this week about people having a “blue Monday” or a “blue week” as apparently people are skint from Christmas/New Year/Sale shopping and have fallen off the wagon when it comes to New Year’s resolutions.  Well if those are your major problems in life to be upset over well boo f*cking hoo or at least that’s what I want to say to people.

Of course I don’t wish to belittle anyone who is genuinely suffering from depression, as it is an awful illness but those people who are sad because of minor issues like the weather I just want to grab and violently shake.

I wake up and every day is a blue Monday, as the first thing I think of when I open my eyes in the morning, like most parents, is my children.  I’m then slapped in the face by reality and the fact only one of them is alive.  My little girl Aurora makes me smile despite the blue start and proves there is always a little sunshine in the darkness if you focus on the light no matter how hard that can be.   I’m so used to feeling “blue” that it has become just another part of me.

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The face that makes me smile every morning

On the positive side because of this sadness within me other things going wrong seem to just be absorbed into the same abyss that’s already there, so I don’t feel anymore sad but exactly the same as I did before.  For example our washing machine just gave up the ghost and a few years ago it’d have meant maximum stress about the cost but we simply ordered a new one on our credit card, to be paid for later all sorted.  Minimum drama and less fuss as my mum says “don’t sweat the small stuff”.

So to those of you who think you have issues this week then….

You’ve put on a few pounds since Christmas and the diet you started on the 1stJanuary you’ve given up on already, so now you’re depressed.  Think yourself lucky at least you’re not living on the streets homeless and hungry.  At least you’re healthy too and not in hospital battling some horrendous disease or sat beside a loved one who is.

The weather is a bit grey and miserable so it’s making you feel down.  Well you do live in the UK and it is winter so get over it or look to emigrate.  Change your situation. Remember also that grey and miserable can be pretty too just change your perspective and wear bright colours to compensate.

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Look for the sunshine through the grey clouds

So you spent too much money over Christmas and New Year so you feel a little down.  Why not start a side line business connected to a hobby or dig out some things you don’t want any more and sell them?  Basically stop moping and get moving.  Do something about it and change things.  You have the power!  (Now I sound like He-man I do apologise)  Websites like Ebay have always been popular but also look at selling things through sites and apps such as Depop and Facebook marketplace.  If you’re really struggling then get advice from the Citizens advice bureau they can give impartial advice on debt and other issues.

Given up on whatever New Year’s resolutions you started?  If they involved spending money on gym membership, then cancel it and donate the cash to charity, think of the actual good you can do with it instead. The time you’d have spent in the gym you can spend volunteering at a homeless shelter, local dogs home (that’d be great free exercise!) or visiting elderly people? Think of the good you can do for others instead of focussing inwards on how bad you feel personally. Stop being selfish and think of other people instead.  I can honestly tell you that you will start to feel much much better just try it!

You can easily find volunteering opportunities in your community via sites like the Do it Trust

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Grey can sometimes be quite beautiful even in winter

Chin up; keep going and soon it’ll be springtime.

Big love,

Sarah x

 

 

Grief is like being Ship wrecked

This time of year we find a little tricky because this is the week our baby Arthur was due to be born, and although we marked his official first birthday and day he died in September, I still feel a little tug that says we should be having a first birthday party for him in early January.

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Our little boy Arthur

Grieving for Arthur I find harder and more complicated than I do for Violet as the situation is much more complex:

  • We never knew Arthur not properly. Yes I felt him move and kick inside me (a lot) but we never got to met him alive.
  • We were the ones who decided to end his life prematurely based on medical facts and delivered him early sleeping. The hardest decision we’ve ever made.
  • The bittersweet this is that if we hadn’t decided to lose Arthur when we did then we wouldn’t have had Aurora and she wouldn’t be here today. So that is hard to swallow – how can you feel sad about someone who led to the creation of someone else?

Anyway I saw my counselor this week and she said we should thank Arthur for giving us Aurora so tonight we will toast our little boy.  She also passed me a really lovely article that was taken from a guy called GSnow’s Reddit account.  Some of the original isn’t really relevant to child loss so I have edited it somewhat and also added some of my own words but you can read the full piece he wrote here.

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The Bay of Kotor

“As for grief, you’ll find it comes in waves. When the ship is first wrecked, you’re drowning, with wreckage all around you. Everything floating around you reminds you of the beauty and the magnificence of the ship that was, and is no more. And all you can do is float. You find some piece of the wreckage and you hang on for a while. Maybe it’s some physical thing. Maybe it’s a happy memory or a photograph. Maybe it’s a person who is also floating for me luckily it was my husband and we clung to each other. Some of my family and friends also floated nearby providing sustenance for us to carry on. For a while, all you can do is float. Stay alive.

In the beginning, the waves are 100 feet tall and crash over you without mercy. They come 10 seconds apart and don’t even give you time to catch your breath. All you can do is hang on and float. After while, maybe weeks, maybe months, you’ll find the waves are still 100 feet tall, but they come further apart. When they come, they still crash all over you and wipe you out. But in between, you can breathe, you can function. You never know what’s going to trigger the grief. It might be a song, a picture, seeing another young family similar to yours on the street, the sound of a baby crying. It can be just about anything…and the wave comes crashing. But in between waves, there is life.

Somewhere down the line, and it’s different for everybody, you find that the waves are only 80 feet tall. Or 50 feet tall. And while they still come, they come further apart. You can see them coming. An anniversary, a birthday, or Christmas, or a family gathering. You can see it coming, for the most part, and prepare yourself. And when it washes over you, you know that somehow you will, again, come out the other side. Soaking wet, sputtering, still hanging on to some tiny piece of the wreckage, but you’ll come out. Occasionally the wave can come from no where and totally overwhelm you but again you rise up, gasp and breathe again.

The waves never stop coming, and somehow you don’t really want them to. But you learn that you’ll survive them. And other waves will come. And you’ll survive them too.”

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Sunset over Auckland

I started to write and plan this article before I read the sad news today about local BBC newsreader Dianne Oxberry who sadly passed away.  I have lots of friends who were her friends and everyone who met her spoke fondly of her, so this article is dedicated to her friends and family.  May you ride the storm of grief and find some lovely memories from the beautiful ship to cling to.  If you know those close to her please help them to stay afloat.  Do this through kindness and compassion.

Big love and hugs, Sarah x

 

Barcelona beach break?

I never thought of Barcelona having beaches before. Yes I knew of a beach resort outside the city called Sitges but in the two times I have visited the city of Barcelona I never realised they also had beautiful sandy beaches.

My hubby was invited to attend a conference in the city for work and so I decided that baby and me would tag along for a few days to get some much needed vitamin D.

His conference was on the outskirts of the city centre in a residential area close to the port and opposite the museum of natural history. It was also virtually on the beach.

The weather in early December was 18 or 19 degrees which if you’re Mediterranean is Baltic but for a British person that’s summer! As most Spaniards thought it was cold the beaches and yes there are more than one were virtually empty on what we’d class in England as a gloriously sunny day.  They also have beaches that are well kitted out with showers, toilets & play equipment so great for families.

The plus point of Barcelona over a more traditional beach place in Spain such as the Costa del Sol or one of the islands is the fact it’s Barcelona! So you have lovely beaches but in the evening you have all the delights of a big cosmopolitan city and if you’re bored of the beach you can look around the sights of the city.

Having been to Barcelona a few times before I’d been around the city to the usual tourist places like Las Ramblas, the Gothic Quarter and the Park Guell – Gaudi’s fantastical Park but even though I’d seen the Basilica de la Sagrada Família from the outside I’d never been in as the queues were always hours long. The beauty of visiting in December is there were no queues for any of the big tourist attractions- brilliant!

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I think it’s fair to say the cathedral blew us away once we got into it. I can only describe it as Star Wars like as it was so other worldly but the stand out thing for me were the stain glass windows that had Picasso style artwork in their design and a unique blend of colours and shades that perfectly made use of the light coming into the building. I would love to spend a full day in the cathedral watching how the windows react to the different light in the day. So beautiful I highly recommend a visit and to think at the moment it isn’t even finished.

After visiting this extremely famous Goudi place of worship we then went and visited another more ancient place.  The original Barcelona Cathedral, or Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia, to give it its official name, in the Gothic quarter, again a place I hadn’t visited before because the queues were far too long. This one was built in the 13thand 14thcenturies.  We lit 10 candles here to remember Violet, Arthur, my Nan, friend Alethea and other friends who are going through a bad time. Amazing architecture and a huge achievement when you think when it was built without modern day technology; the Basilica de la Sagrada Familia will probably take as long to be built (currently scheduled for completion in 2026) and the builders now have every bit of technology.

Aurora loved both buildings and gazed amazed at the beautiful ceilings and windows.  It was so peaceful and although I’m not religious I love the calming atmosphere in these buildings as though they have absorbed the love they have witnessed over the years.

I also need to mention how amazing Jet2 are when travelling with babies. The cabin crew were brilliant helping us with bags onto the plane and then taking baby for cuddles while we got our luggage into the overhead lockers.  They were 100% better than when I’ve flown with EasyJet and Ryanair who I’ve listed in order of horrendousness with Ryanair being the worst offender.

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Aurora enjoying her first flight experience

In short I’d highly endorse a winter sun break to Barcelona so get looking at those Jet2 flight deals now.

Happy flying

 

Love Sarah x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tis the season to be jolly

Well not for lots of people it isn’t. People who are alone, homeless, financially struggling, have mental health issues or who have lost someone dear to them it’s often a time of year they dread.

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Violet’s one and only Christmas morning

For us we face another Christmas without our little girl who’d be an excitable 3 year old this year and our little boy for whom it’d be a first Christmas. My husband will experience another year without his beloved father who died just before becoming a grandpa, a role we know he’d have excelled at. This year however, unlike the last two years, will be bittersweet for us as we now have our gorgeous little rainbow baby Aurora who will be 5 months old.

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Violet in her Christmas jumper and matching trousers!

The first year after we lost Violet we actually couldn’t face Christmas at all so a lovely friends parents’ leant us their holiday home in the Caribbean and my mum treated us to flights so we could escape the whole season for 2 weeks. We were very fortunate to have such wonderful friends and family that could afford to help us escape in this way. I know others often aren’t as lucky and may choose to escape through shutting the world out at home. Or maybe their escape is immersing themselves in other people and going through the motions of Christmas, perhaps if they have other children then they have no choice.

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Me with Violet this time 3 years ago.  Photo taken by the amazing @hollygoeslightly

Last Christmas we spent with family who happened to also be going through a hard time, albeit for a different reason, as we wanted to do what families should do and be there for one another. Although we did escape for New Years and what should have been our Arthur’s due date, as we couldn’t face that so we booked cheap flights and headed off to Morocco.

 

This year will be the first year we don’t escape Christmas or New Years, instead we are inviting family to spend it with us. We will wake up with an excitable 4 year old niece on Christmas morning and it will be a first Christmas for our littlest nephew as well as our daughter. The fact that we can help to make it a magical day for my niece and nephew, I think will help us to get through it.

What’s sad is this year the kind family who helped us to escape that first Christmas have just suffered a devastating loss themselves so this festive time will now be especially hard for them. Our hearts go out to them this year.

Our motto is that if you are able to celebrate Christmas this year then embrace your family or loved ones. Make the most of every second because you have no idea what the future holds. Also if you can help to make someone else’s Christmas better or easier this year then do it. Whether you donate to a local food bank, drop Christmas presents into a charity looking after disadvantaged children or just invite your elderly neighbours round for Christmas dinner, nothing says Christmas like looking after those who are suffering by easing their pain or helping them to also have a nice experience, even if for one day only.

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Me & Violet with my brother & sister with their little ones 3 years ago

I can’t wait to hear all your lovely stories of goodwill and sharing. I’ve heard lots already, as I’m blessed with lots of amazingly kind people in my life. So far there are tales of people stocking food banks with so much food they can feed many families over the 3 days of Christmas. Those who fundraise and collect donations for presents for underprivileged children. Some have collected blankets for the homeless.  Keep up the good work. They say money is like manure; it’s not worth a thing unless it’s spread around well I say the same can be said for kindness.

Sending big hugs to you all and I can’t wait to hear more heartwarming stories.

Love

Sarah x

Luck, God or just random shit?

I don’t know if I believe in luck.  I stopped believing in God as a teenager when I saw the suffering in the world and learnt more about science and history.  I then liked to believe in everything being made from energy and read a lot of books like “The Secret” that talked about putting positive energy out there to get the same back.  Similar to Karma in what comes around goes around.

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I still have a fondness for churches.  Here’s Hallgrimskirkja in Reykjavik, Iceland

The energy, karma and positivity mantra was the way I always lived my life.  Some people believe in God but I have liked to believe in the ancient energy of mother earth, not in a chanting naked around Stonehenge way, but the idea that we’re all made of energy always seemed more scientific and therefore believable.

Violet came along and we were told at her 20-week scan about her heart defect and that it was bad luck.  She was an undiagnosed breach baby and I had her naturally afterwards we were again told “oh you had very bad luck there”.  Then Violet got her heart fixed by surgeons at Alder Hey hospital and all the time we channeled positive energy.  Other family members and friends prayed for her in a multitude of different faiths.

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The Priory in Cartmel a stunningly beautiful place

Her surgery was a permanent fix.  People told us how lucky she and we were that she survived but we thanked science and the talented people at Alder Hey.  We continued to think in a positive way and raised funds from our belated wedding reception for Ronald McDonald House to thank them for their support of us in providing accommodation when Violet was in hospital.

Then when Violet got sick again being admitted into Manchester Children’s Hospital we continued to channel positivity and friends/family prayed again for her.  After just over a week she seemed to turn a corner, we rejoiced and thanked everyone, mother earth, God, everyone’s prayers were answered…but then she suddenly died.  When we got her post mortem results, and then over 18 months later an inquest verdict, to be told she was just very unlucky and she died from something so extremely rare that no one could believe it.

We then got pregnant again with Arthur our rainbow and were told at his 20-week scan that he had irreparable brain damage and once again told that we were just very unlucky again.

Now if I was to believe in karma both of these things should have been lucky instead. I’m the person that buys food for random homeless people and sometimes helps them even further, for example I bought a homeless guy a sleeping bag in winter when he was sat sobbing because someone beat up and robbed him.  Over the years I have raised thousands for charity.  I’ve also only ever had rescue animals and do the middle class thing of sponsoring a child in Africa, so whilst I don’t do this as a quid pro quo or usually tell people whenever I do something kind, I should have a lot of good karma saved up right there. So I think the loss of my two children shows this karma thing is pure nonsense as for luck well….

As for God…I know lots of people who have lost children and are comforted by their faith. I on the other hand can’t believe in anyone or anything that can cause that kind of pain for anyone.  The pain my child suffered in hospital in the weeks before she died, and that of other children suffering in hospital too, means if there is a God then he is a cruel unkind one, so why worship him/her?   I actually in a way admire those child loss survivors who do still believe, as they’re certainly stronger in their faith than I am.

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We still light candles for our babies when we travel just in case – here’s the inside of St Ann’s Church in Manchester the epicentre of the city

I still try to think positively, as it helps me to cope day to day but I do it more because I think that Violet wouldn’t want me to be upset or negative and me being miserable and negative isn’t going to bring Violet and Arthur back. I also now have the adorable Aurora to care for so need to be the best version of me for her sake.

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An autumnal walk in the park with colds and coughs hoping the fresh air does us good

I believe kindness, compassion and good manners aren’t exclusive to those who are religious and my experiences over the last few years have shown me that often these qualities can be missing just as easily from a religious person as they can be present in an atheist.  I like to treat people with kindness and respect regardless of who they are. Blame my mother for this one as she clearly raised us well.

So to summarize I’m not sure what I believe anymore and maybe as one of my extremely clever friends said, “perhaps life is just a lot of random shit that just happens and if you survive then you either learn to deal with it or you don’t end of”. Not quite as eloquent as Forrest Gump’s “life is like a box of chocolates” but I can really identify with my friends version.  If religion is how you learn to deal with life’s challenges then good on you, it’s certainly better than turning to addiction or not coping at all.  Each to their own and I think child loss survivors need to push on anyway they can.

How do you cope with things or spur yourself to carry on beyond what you used to believe was your limit?

 

 

 

 

Our second rainbow

This was the best kept secret until recently as anyone can testify if they have bumped into me, as at 34 weeks pregnant with my third pregnancy I’m now pretty big.

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Those of you who regularly read my blog you will know that I like to write in a very honest and frank way so I apologise if I haven’t been forthcoming about this massive development in my life and hope that after reading this post you can understand why.

We were lucky enough to fall pregnant again pretty soon after the loss of our baby Arthur and unfortunately were told that there would be a 50/50 chance of the new baby having similar brain issues, as it’s older brother and that we wouldn’t know if it had these issues until the 20 week scan.  So we would have to wait 5 months until we knew if our pregnancy would be viable or not.

In the meantime we were of course offered additional scans so we had one at 7 weeks, 12 weeks and another at 16 weeks where they checked baby’s heart.  At the 16-week check we discovered that unlike Violet’s heart the new baby’s heart was perfectly formed and we had received this news about Arthur’s heart at 16-weeks too.  So although it was good news we weren’t celebrating yet.

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Baby at 12 week scan

I remember after our 16-week scan with Arthur we had been so happy that his heart was ok and felt so lucky, relieved and excited we told friends and family we were pregnant.  Everyone of course was delighted for us especially after the loss of Violet. Then after Arthur’s 20-week scan we got the devastating news about his severe brain condition and our entire world collapsed.

For this very reason we refrained from telling our close friends about the new pregnancy until after our 20 week scan.  This scan turned out to be the very first 20 week scan we have ever had that hasn’t resulted in us being pulled into a separate room to be spoken to by specialists and midwife counselors.  The first 20-week scan we have had that hasn’t resulted in us having to have a second follow up scan with a more senior specialist a week later. So when the two specialists that performed our 20-week scan told us that the baby was perfectly healthy we didn’t know what to say.  We were in total shock.  We were asked if we had any questions and all we could think of was “what do we do now?” We were told we could leave and come back for another scan with a specialist at 28 weeks.

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Baby at 20 weeks refusing to have a photo taken turning away!

Since then we have been waiting for a phone call or letter from the hospital to say that they are sorry but they have made a mistake.  We had the second specialist scan at 28 weeks and again we prepared ourselves for the knock out punch but that didn’t come, again we were given positive news.  To anyone reading this we must sound ungrateful but we were just so used to being given bad news whether it was devastating or minor bad news that we almost couldn’t believe what we were hearing.

We currently have a minimum of one baby or pregnancy related appointment each week either to monitor my heart (as I have an ASD see my post about a broken heart), to check baby’s growth (the amazing Tommy’s clinic gives us a scan every 3 weeks), child loss counseling or midwife appointments.  I’m under so many different departments and teams that we have gone from having an horrendous level of obstetric care when we had Violet to now having lots of specialists who all know who we are and will give us priority level care.  The NHS now feels like it is working for us!

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With my sister at the baby shower she & my sister-in-law kindly organised for me

I’ve recently been to a few different Manchester events and I’ve bumped into so many people now that I think most know about our impending arrival.  People constantly ask me whether I’m excited about the new baby and the truthful answer is simply that I will be relieved when baby is here safe and well, when I can see with my own eyes.  Until then I can only try to be hopeful for the future.

Thanks for reading.

Sarah x

Count your blessings

It’s not all doom and gloom when you’re grieving the death of your child strangely enough there are lots of positives.

The main positive to come out of it is that you really appreciate the good in life and the usual things that would have brought you down really don’t matter anymore. So what you get a parking ticket, ladder your tights or forget to take an umbrella out with you, so you get drenched in that sudden rain shower.

All these things at one time would have stressed me out but now I simply shake things like that off, as in the grand scheme of things unless someone has died or been told they have something incurable then it isn’t really bad news compared to your child dying?

We’d happily give up anything to get our daughter back. If someone wanted me to sign over everything I own to live on the streets or to kill myself in order to get her back then I would do in a heartbeat.

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Violet loved playing with her drum & other instruments

The only issue with not being as fazed with day-to-day incidents is that it reduces my ability to sympathise or empathise with others. If someone has also lost a child, found out they have cancer or face losing a loved one then I know how to relate to them. I understand totally how to empathise with that situation. However if I meet someone who tells me what a nightmare week they have had because they broke a heel on their favourite pair of shoes, had something go wrong with a client at work or have a child that’s teething, so haven’t gotten any sleep, then I really find it difficult to sympathise with this. In fact it often irritates me and makes me annoyed that to some people this is the extent of their bad week. I would love for that to be the worst thing that has ever happened to me!

I feel myself having to practise saying “oh dear I’m sorry to hear that. Poor you” without sounding sarcastic; when I really want to say “pull yourself together”, “get a grip” and “worse things have happened, man up would you!” “You could be like me and have a child die now that’s a bad week!”

I find it so hard to tolerate drama queens too and we all know some, where chipping their nail varnish is a disastrous day and their boyfriend or husband working late is a nightmare. I simply try to avoid these people now, as they have no idea about the normal world and yes there’s sometimes a sweet innocence about them that you have to love but currently I find them so frustrating that I almost have to resist the urge to shake them.

So if you need a shoulder to cry on or a friendly ear for a “real” problem then I’m all ears with tea and sympathy but if your problem isn’t life threatening and to do with not being able to find the right dress, then please forgive me if I don’t sound sincere when I say “poor you how awful”.

Love, Sarah x

The Small Things

I used to be a self-confessed shopaholic before I had Violet I loved nothing more than a shopping spree round town getting a new dress, looking at the sales, maybe some new shoes, new toiletries etc. Now I hardly ever shop.

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Violet wearing a new pretty dress in May 2016 & it always cheered her up

Instead losing my children has taught me to appreciate the experiences life has to offer, rather than simply buying stuff. So now we’d rather spend our money on dinner out or save for a holiday somewhere or spend time in the outdoors.

It has also made us more grateful for our friends and family who have been so supportive, throughout these last few years. Yes we have had good friends fall by the way side but many more that have stepped right up to the plate to hold our hands during our lowest ebbs. We are so appreciative of these people, as it makes us realise that as cruel and evil as the world sometimes seems there are good, kind people out there.

There have also been near strangers and distant friends who have been so kind and gone out of their way to help us in small ways that mean much more because of the thought that goes with it.

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From the last party Violet ever went to and she loved a good party!

Some people have gone out of their way to remember our daughter by doing Iron Man contests, swimming Windermere, organising events and other challenges to raise money for her fund helping us to create that lasting legacy for Violet we so crave.

There have been lots of moments of kindness from people that have reduced us both to tears and we love you all so thank you!

Love, Sarah x

p.s. if anyone wants to donate to her fund click here  and tickets for the Violet ball on 29th September 2018 can be reserved here